The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My very first thought, only a few pages in, was, “Where in the heck is this going?” That was also my thought about midway through, as well. Yet, I was compelled to continue reading because, well, I wanted to figure out where it was going! Before I finished I finally realized it was less about the destination and more about the journey. Cliché, but it fits. Really, though, it makes sense, because when does life ever come to one conclusive climax? Obviously, our lives, in the grand scheme of things, are a bunch of tiny zeniths in the timeline of the universe, and our own timelines replicate that in the span of our lifetime. However, I’m not here to get all existential.
Daphne is a relatable main character, generally happy but with her own set of troubles. Married, working mom, trying to figure out what she’s doing in any given space or time. Is she making an impact? Is it a good impact, or bad? Is she ruining her child’s life, her husband’s, her own? From the very beginning you see her semi-life crisis begin as she ditches work, grabs her kid, and heads for the hills, literally.
There begins the journey, one that carefully and successfully balances the banal yet passionate duties and love of a (relatively new) mother, the necessary and claustrophobic tasks of a stay-at-home housewife (even for a short time), and the inner turmoil of a woman who is dealing with the loss of family, coworkers, friends, and the looming and consistent nightmare of her husband being stuck overseas because his green card has been illegally confiscated.
On a personal level, I was sucked in so much that I was tempted to up my Zoloft dosage. At some point in my own life I had felt the loss and conflict that plagued Daphne throughout the entire story. Being a mother of five, I could relate with the little successes of an on-the-fly healthy lunch, long naptime, embarrassment beyond belief at the behavior or actions of your own small child.
The relationships presented were real life, nothing fake or hokey. Real-time interactions in believable ways with stuff that people actually say, as opposed to carefully crafted or overly thought-out sentences that oft times plague novel characters. I had met Alice, the old crone and I knew Cindy, the malcontent neighbor. I rooted for Daphne’s marriage, celebrated the highs, dreaded the lows, encouraged her to try something new or stretch out of her comfort zone.
Sadly, the story ends, as they all do, and without a hard conclusion, I was left wanting more. It needed to continue because I was now invested in Daphne, and win or lose, succeed or fail, I wanted to be there to cheer her on. This story is not a traditional page-turner, you’re not anxiously reading at the edge of your seat. Instead, you’re turning the pages because you want to, out of sheer curiosity, because you want to follow Daphne through her every day moments, because she is your friend and you care.
I look forward to reading more from Lydia Kiesling, her writing was inspirational and a delight to absorb.
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